Turkey, EU meet on refugee crisis

Turkey, EU meet on refugee crisis

Turkey, EU meet on refugee crisis

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrives for a summit on relations between the European Union and Turkey and on the migration crisis at the EU headquarters in Brussels on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

Leaders from the European Union and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu gathered at a summit in Brussels on Nov. 29 with the goal of signing an agreement that will offer Ankara cash and closer ties with the EU in return for Turkish help in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe.

“The most important one is our responsibility and duty to protect our external borders,” European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters in Brussels ahead of the EU-Turkey summit.

“Without control at our external borders, Schengen will become history,” Tusk added.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he expected the EU-Turkey summit to agree on stemming the influx of migrants to Europe. 

The EU previously agreed on a 3 billion-euro ($3.2 billion) aid package for Turkey to help it stop the flow of refugees to Europe from the conflict in Syria, 2.2 million of whose citizens are currently in Turkey.

Turkish and European officials said the summit would agree to open Chapter 17 of Turkey’s accession process – covering economic and monetary policy – by mid-December.

Davutoğlu said the meeting with EU heads of government would "re-energize" the future of his country as a member of the European Union.

"[Today is] very historic to re-energize our accession process as well as to discuss latest developments in Europe," Davutoğlu told reporters in Brussels on Nov. 29 before the summit.

"Today we will be sharing the destiny of our continent, the global challenges in economic crisis, as well as regional geopolitical challenges, including the migration issue," he added.

“I am thankful to all European leaders for this new beginning.”

Davutoğlu had previously announced that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed to solve possible problems within a spirit of mutual understanding.

His remarks came following a question about Greek Cypriot’s objections to a draft declaration for a Turkey-EU refugee summit. 

Speaking at a press conference at Ankara’s Esenboğa airport on Nov. 29, ahead of his flight to Brussels for the EU-Turkey Summit, the prime minister thanked Merkel, Tusk and Juncker for their “attitude open to cooperation.”

Turkey and EU have reached a consensus that takes into account the sensitivities of Ankara, he said.

“This meeting will provide new momentum to relations. It’s important in so many aspects because it’s the first EU-Turkey summit in 11 years,” he said.

Turkey will help the EU handle the flow of migrants that has called into question the future of Europe’s passport-free travel in exchange for cash and restarting stalled talks on EU accession, said the draft conclusions of an EU-Turkey summit.

“Both sides will, as agreed and with immediate effect, step up their active cooperation on migrants who are not in need of international protection, preventing travel to Turkey and the EU, ensuring the application of the established bilateral readmission provisions and swiftly returning migrants who are not in need of international protection to their countries of origin,” the draft, seen by Reuters, said. 

In exchange, Turkey will receive 3 billion euros of initial aid to handle the refugees on its territory. The amount might be adjusted later on depending on developments, the draft said. 

The EU would also open in December the next chapter of negotiations with Turkey in its accession talks to the EU, which have been dragging on since 2005, and prepare further chapters for discussion in the first three months of next year. 

The EU also aims to lift the need for visas for Turks traveling to the EU in October 2016 if Ankara meets certain criteria specified in an agreed roadmap, said the draft, which may still be changed after the talks.